Day 9 of 10 Writing FayTown Calling

It’s seven in the morning and I’m pretty sure I’m done writing for now. I got a few hours of sleep, fully intending to actually go to bed, then woke up and stayed that way. This turned out to be a mixed blessing as I then wrote 4,200 words that I am very, very happy with.

The afternoon netted be over 2,000 giving me a total of around 6,500 words for day nine. That bleeds into Sunday (day 10) so I don’t really know how to count it, but whatever, I’m calling that day nine.

Currently, the story is at 112, 391 words. If you’re scratching your head at that total, that’s because of a lot of cannibalization of previous words. Those don’t get counted in my word count for the day, but obviously do for the total. Because so much is getting recycled, and so much getting cut because it no longer fits with what I have written, I have a wonky word count.

So, where am I on the total story?

A lot of what I’ve done over the past few days needs review before I can say I’m happy, but the right ideas are on paper. All they need is some polish. I am happy with over half the story, but still haven’t been able to make it to the climax where things Get Real (which also needs heavy surgery to see what can and can’t be kept, and new words to go along with what I’ve written).  This will prove difficult over the next few weeks. I will write intermittently today, but won’t be able to marathon it like I’ve been doing. I go back to work tomorrow (and have class after that) and will be coming back to a week and a half of emails and a very busy workload. Balancing that with writing will be challenging.

I do, however, plan on continuing this log past the day 10 mark. I know I’m not going to get done everything I wanted, but I’ve accomplished a lot. Not as much as some people can (I don’t know how people can write a whole book in a month, ten days, etc.) but enough for me to say this has been a success.

My last update will be this evening with today’s writing. Beyond that, we will see how long it takes.

The First Chapter

Anne R. Allen put a post a few a week or so back (I am so glad to be caught up on Feedly now…) that discusses what all should be involved in a first chapter.

The moment I saw it, I groaned. Here we go, something else to tear everything I think I know to ribbons. But I read it, because this was a new blog I added to my reader, and I nee to get a feel for it, and much as I didn’t want to admit it, these types of posts are important. Nothing is concrete, but the thing about being a new writer, one who hasn’t written for anyone I wasn’t related or married to, is not having the ability to gauge what is concrete and what is quicksand. think I know my stuff, but who knows what that will mean to readers?

And the first sentence, paragragh, page, chapter, of a story are essential. I know for myself, I have tried to force myself to read books (especially those ones I am supposed to like) but can’t usually make it stick. I have to get hooked, and rarely does it happen if it fails in the beginning. This is reflected in my buying behavior. The way I buy books is with Amazon’s wish list. When I am looking for a book, I go through this massive To Read list and check out the samples. Some look great until I open that first chapter, and those are the books that don’t get bought. Occasionally, I will revisit the book to read the sample again if I really like the description or have heard really good things about it, but usually I just cut it from the list.

I don’t want my book cut from anything.

This was one of those few posts that set me at ease instead of driving me into a panic and causing me to tear into into my manuscript like a Civil War surgeon. I’ve had those panic moments. I’ve also had to go back and stitch together what I lopped off. That’s partly why I’m pretty confident my intro to Sorcerer Rising is solid and will achieve what I want.

Much like Ms. Allen discussed, I didn’t write it from the get go. I went back and added it last summer when I set out to finally complete this. The original is still there, in fact its the third chapter, but I wanted a better hook, a more organic introduction into the world, and to set the stage for some of Virgil’s problems.

All that said, I’ll probably have to do it with the second book as well, I don’t know yet. I knew how I wanted to start it, but that may not set everything up the way it needs to be.

We will see.

Violence In Fantasy

Adam Callaway at A Dribble of Ink has a great article that dissects violence, particularly in relation to fantasy. He makes some great points (especially using BioShock 3 where the violence there is ridiculous). The entire time I read it, I was trying to think of novels I loved that didn’t employ violence. I have a few, but none of them are fantasy.

And it got me thinking about my own story. In the first novel, Sorcerer Rising, I have a good bit of violence. I think of it as action, but really, that’s how we as a society put a nicer label on violence. That’s not really a problem for me, I’ve always handled that rather well and I think it has a point. Virgil isn’t dark or an anti-hero, but his reaction to horrible things is to throw a whole bunch of horrible right back at it.

Very rarely in fantasy do you find a story that doesn’t involve some type of fighting, often times coupled with horrible, gratuitous violence. With the popularity of the Song of Ice and Fire, people have gone to extreme violence for its visceral quality, not realizing that there is so much more to its success. I like the idea of some fantasy with no violence or fighting. I’d be interested in seeing what kind of stories could be produced. How much are we ignoring by stating that a story has to have combat?

I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ll be the trailblazer on this. I’ve always been, I guess I’ll call it “open”, to violence in fiction. It’s rarely bothered me, depending on the context. It’s always been what appealed to me in fantasy, and until Virgil has a life changing event (or kills everyone why might want him dead) I don’t think I’m going to write this.

My second novel (Currently referred to as DITF, and no, you don’t get to know what that stands for) is chocked full of “action” and there are a few instances where he does some truly horrible things. I try to make it clear that this is an unpleasant part of his personality, but justified violence is still violence and people will disagree about what is acceptable and what is not. But it’s something I’ve had to curtail with this one. It seems like every time I need to move the story forward, someone attacks, or is attacked, or they attack someone else. A lot of my fleshing out of the story has been adding the consequences to this violence, and in parts scaling it back.

I wrote a scene last night that I really enjoyed (by the way, a little over five hundred words last night) and it’s something I want to continue. Virgil is an explorer, and before everything went horribly wrong, that’s what he loved. He loved seeing amazing things, the joy of finding something new. He was an educator as well as a soldier, and an explorer long before he was a criminal. That’s one of his driving forces, not what was taken from him, but what he was prevented from doing.

I don’t even think I realized that until writing that scene, and neither did he as a result. Nothing violent or disturbing happened, if anything it was pretty and serene. Violence gets the adrenaline pumping, but eventually it wears thin. I love the monsters and magic I have thrown around in this story, but this scene meant more to me and my character than most of that.

Jim Butcher On Sword and Laser

I have recently gotten into Geek and Sundry‘s Sword and Laser webshow. I haven’t found any show that interview authors, particularly fantasy and science fictions authors, like they do. And they get some pretty big damn names too. George R. R. Martin, Salidin Ahmed, Cherie Priest, and several others. I’ve found a few books I had never encountered and I love hearing fantasy authors talk about their work.

And in catching up, I came upon this interview with Jim Butcher.

Jim friggin Butcher! My head nearly EXPLODED!

If you haven’t read Mr. Butcher’s work, really, stop reading this and go buy Storm Front. It’s not he best of the series, so push on because The Dresden Files is, in my personal opinion, the best fantasy series I have ever read. Furies of Calderon is also pretty damn good, but has more obvious weaknesses.

His work (probably coupled with The Name of the Wind) was what made me write and finish my novel. A lot of books inspired me to write (Dark Tower series, anything by Terry Brooks, the Hobbit, a ton of others) but it was finishing each Dresden Files and it never being enough to satisfy that hunger for more that made me write and finish things. It taught be about better world building, characterization, narrative, pacing, storytelling, prose, how to be literary while still having monsters and explosions, humor and drama.

As you can tell, I’m a bit Butcher fan. Check it out.

Profanity in Writing

Keith Cronin wrote a great post on Writer Unboxed (that I just now caught up to on Feedly) about profanity in writing. It covers most of the bases, but I had some thoughts to add as well.

My writing has some language in it, the f-bomb or damn most often. It’s a part of my character. He is a man of the world and has a temper that often times gets the best of him. That’s part of this character. But he is also from the South, and he’s well educated. There is a time and a place for language, and that plays into the when he says what. He doesn’t cuss around women, most of the time, because that’s how he was raised. He doesn’t use the Lord’s name in vain (Because my mother and mother in law are reading this) because he grew up Catholic and that influenced his life.

Language is another part of building a character. And it can be a stumbling block. My grandfather is a huge W.E. B Griffin fan. Reads everything he writes, at least once and often times more. In Griffin’s work you see a lot of language, and it’s expected. It’s about soldiers and cops, often times in the line of fire. And he read it just fine.

Then he went blind.

What difference does that make? He doesn’t want to read braille, so he listens to audiobooks, and that changed everything for him. Now it’s real. Whereas before he could skim over words, now they’re being shouted at him. As much as he loves the books, he can’t stand listening to the language. My grandmother actually reads him the books now.

Language can build authenticity, but it can also build barriers. It’s a lot like doing an accent in literature. It’s a fine line between building a real person, and being unreadable.